It is essential for any commercial building that is serious about reducing the risk from fire and preventing death or injury should the worst happen. It is also a legal requirement for all commercial buildings under the Fire Safety Order (2005).
Legally, the building owner, or employer occupying a building in some circumstances, is the Responsible Person for ensuring fire safety. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the requirements of the Fire Safety Order and how to comply. The legislation is complex and technical, making it easy to miss important points and requiring a large investment in time to implement.
For this reason we’ve written a Quick Guide to UK Fire Safety Regulations, summarising all your requirements in short chapters arranged by theme. You can access a copy by clicking here.
For now though, the following are five reasons why commercial building owners should take fire safety seriously, and start planning a fire safety risk assessment today:
Commercial buildings contain many different fire risks and these change over time. Common hazardous materials include paper storage, oxygen tanks, fuel, and cleaning chemicals. Your risk assessment will identify these hazards and where they are stored, allowing you to take special precautions that reduce your overall fire risk.
All building occupants and visitors are vulnerable should a fire occur. However, some people are considered to be at greater risk than others, due to their age, health or mobility. Examples of high-risk people include apprentices under the age of 18, pregnant members of staff, and those with a disability or limited mobility. So that the entire workforce is protected, a special action plan should be included to evacuate all at-risk people in the case of an emergency. Some people may need special assistance and this should be accounted for when creating your fire safety plan.
Every year, lives are lost across the UK as a result of fires. The chance of serious injury or mortality are increased if people are confused about what to do when a fire occurs. Having a detection, warning and evacuation plan in place gets people out of harm’s way quickly and reduces the risk of people becoming stuck in a dangerous situation.
Uncontrolled fire can cause catastrophic damage to your building and property. Putting early detection and damage limitation procedures in place can restrict the spread of fire, and enable the fire services to put out the blaze quickly.
As a Responsible Person, you are legally obliged to carry out a risk assessment and create an Emergency Plan. This should be codified as a written document and the appropriate training carried out so it can be implemented at short notice.
The Fire and Rescue Service may carry out a fire audit on your premises at any time. They will expect to see a clear Emergency Plan that demonstrates compliance with the Fire Safety Order. If you fail to show this, then they may impose an Enforcement Notice, requiring you to make changes. In the case of a serious breach, they may issue a Prohibition Notice barring you from the use of your building until changes are made.
An Enforcement Notice is an extremely serious business. Depending on the required changes, you will have around 28 days to comply with the demands. Failure to do this may result in a prosecution. This can carry extremely stiff penalties for your company, with fines of up to £10,000 per Fire Safety Order article breached.
In addition, the Responsible Person is deemed to be personally, criminally liable for failure to comply with an Enforcement Notice. A successful prosecution could bring personal fines and imprisonment of up to 2 years.
You must ensure all existing equipment is kept in working order, and checked at regular intervals by a competent person. One way of achieving this is by using a third party accredited company to carry out these checks.
If you are in any doubt about your building’s fire safety risk assessment and the plans you have in place, please do two things:
Firstly, click here to download our Fire Safety Guide and review your fire safety procedures.
Secondly, give one of our fire safety advisers a call on 0333 8000 300. We can advise you on the appropriate fire detection, warning and prevention systems for your building, allowing you to comply with fire safety regulations without breaking your budget.